As someone who has followed the partial-birth abortion controversy for 10 years, I was gratified to see President Bush sign legislation banning the procedure. Congress has twice before passed similar legislation, but President Clinton vetoed them both times. He justified his decision with indignant self-righteousness, saying that the ban would endanger the health and future fertility of women. Both were false. But then, from the beginning, this issue has brought out the worst in the pro-abortion lobby.
They began by claiming that no such procedure existed. When this fiction was punctured, NARAL and Planned Parenthood substituted the argument that the procedure was extremely rare, performed only a couple of hundred times a year, and then only in cases where the life of the mother was at stake. When this claim was discredited by investigative reporting showing that the true figure was closer to several thousand than a couple of hundred, the advocates attacked again, this time claiming that the baby died a painless death before the procedure even got started due to the anesthesia administered to the mother. Anesthesiologists testified before Congress that this false claim had caused their pregnant patients great anxiety. The truth is that pregnant women safely undergo surgery all the time without harm to their developing fetuses. Anesthesia administered to the mother not only does not kill the baby, it doesn't harm the baby either.
Advocates next advanced the fiction that partial birth abortion, which they had renamed the "intact dilation and extraction," was performed only on severely disabled fetuses or in medical emergencies involving the mother.
This march of mendacity was interrupted by one burst of candor in 1997. Ron Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, elected to come clean and admit that, contrary to the "party line" assertions of most abortion advocates (himself included), partial-birth abortions were actually performed several thousand times a year (perhaps 6,000 to 7,000), mostly on healthy mothers with healthy babies. In 1999, in Kansas alone, 182 partial birth abortions were performed on babies declared "viable," and in each case the reason cited was the mental, not physical health of the mother. Other investigations revealed that the reasons women sought these second trimester abortions were quite similar to the reasons women chose abortion in the first trimester.